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A star turn for an indie filmmaker

The work of Charles Burnett, including the award-winning 'Killer of Sheep,' will be shown on TCM today.

January 21, 2008|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

Filmmaker Charles Burnett's past continues to catch up with him. His work, which has not seen the light of day for years, is getting the star treatment today from Turner Classic Movies.

The filmmaker unexpectedly found himself in a bit of a whirlwind last year when his award-winning 1977 movie, "Killer of Sheep," long considered a lost gem by film historians, was rediscovered.

A portrait of a working-class Watts neighborhood, "Killer of Sheep" is considered a landmark of American independent film. But it was never meant to be shown commercially and was shelved for years because Burnett never secured the music rights.

Milestone Film and Video spearheaded a move to secure those rights six years ago, and "Killer of Sheep" was finally released in 2007 to much critical acclaim.

It was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and named one of the "100 Essential Films" by the National Society of Film Critics.

Turner Classic Movies today will feature "Killer of Sheep" as the centerpiece of a daylong film marathon honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"It is a strange feeling to have all of this happening now," Burnett said in an interview last week. "I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. It's a proud moment that it's getting all of this attention now."

In addition to "Killer of Sheep," the cable network will spotlight other Burnett films, including "My Brother's Wedding" and three shorts. Burnett will be on hand to introduce the films with TCM host Robert Osborne.

"I hope this is a start," Burnett said.

"There's a lot of independent films that never see the light of day. So, if the film enthusiasts who tune in to this enjoy it, they might want to check out a lot of other films" that are not in the mainstream.

The TCM festival also includes "A Patch of Blue," "Paris Blues" and "A Raisin in the Sun."

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